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September 30, 2014 / 6 Tishri, 5775
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Pinchas: Zealous For Hashem

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

In a moment of zealousness, Pinchas earned eternal honor for himself and his family. As Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains, such is the power of zeal in the service of Hashem and His Torah.

“Pinchas Ben Elazar Ben Aharon the kohen turned away my wrath from upon the sons of Israel by his zeal for my sake in their midst; and I did not bring destruction upon the sons of Israel because of my jealousy. Therefore, say, behold, I give to him my covenant of peace” (25:11-2). This is a special proclamation of acclaim. Though Moshe certainly approved of Pinchas, Hashem here teaches the necessity to render public recognition to the righteous.

“And they shall justify the just, and they shall condemn the wicked” (Devarim 25:1) actually means that the just shall be held up to public view as men all should admire, and that the wicked must be held up as examples of scorn and public shame. Thus, in the rare instances when a prophetic Bat Kol was heard during the Second Sanctuary era, we find an instance (in the Gemara in Sanhedrin) when this miraculous phenomenon was used to point out the excellence of Hillel; and similarly, a Bat Kol came forth later to proclaim the excellence of Shmuel the Little (ibid.).

“Hashem encourages the meek” (Tehillim 147:6) (i.e. the righteous) “but He lowers the wicked to the ground” (ibid.). “Condemning the wicked, and justifying the righteous” (I Kings 8:32): this is a principle of all the narrations of the Scriptures concerning the righteous.

Against every good man (or good deed) there will always be detractors and opponents, or at best the people will fail to appreciate properly the worth of the righteous and their deeds. Here in these verses Hashem supplies a model of how to react to the deeds of the righteous and how highly we should admire their personalities and publicize their importance.

Pinchas is commended for being jealous (i.e. his zeal) for Hashem, and this jealousy was especially commended for being performed in their midst, meaning in open public demonstration. This quality of public open speech or action on behalf of Hashem is especially prized. Moshe became angry when he saw any infraction of Hashem’s Torah and was constantly commended by Hashem; we understand that Moshe was protecting the sons of Israel from the consequences of Hashem’s wrath.

When Moshe, during the episode of the golden calf, broke the Tablets, it was a monumental deed of jealousy for Hashem’s honor, and this prepared the way for the final pardon that was granted for that transgression. Similarly, when Abraham prayed that Sodom be spared destruction, Hashem consented if there would be ten righteous men, but the condition was made that they be righteous men in the midst of the city (Bereshis 18:26), meaning that they openly and publicly demonstrated their disapproval of the sins of the city. Just as the ketoret brings forgiveness from Hashem’s retribution, even more does public action for the honor of Hashem and His Torah bring forgiveness. This is the highest ketoret of all.

In the following verse, a covenant of priesthood is bestowed upon him and his posterity. But the covenant of peace for Pinchas himself is a separate covenant whereby he is assured of peace throughout his lifetime (Bamidbar Rabbah 25:1). Why was Pinchas granted an assurance of peace throughout his lifetime? Because he brought peace to the sons of Israel. This is twice stated: 1) He turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel and 2) he was zealous for his G-d and atoned for the sons of Israel (25:13). The second statement is added to explain the priesthood was bestowed upon him because he atoned for the sons of Israel, therefore he and his posterity shall atone for Israel as kohanim. Thus we learn that the man who is zealous for Hashem and His Torah is considered as one who brings peace to Israel and protects them against misfortune; and therefore he deserves a long life of enjoying the fruits of his deeds.

Pinchas was active even in the days of the War of the Concubine at Giveah (Shoftim 20:28). Similarly, though Eliyahu Hanavi departed from men (II Kings 2:11), he was rewarded in not having to die like other men (ibid.) because he was zealous for Hashem (I Kings 19:10); and in our tradition the deathless Eliyahu appeared to the Sages numerous times. Men such as these have brought upon Israel the assurance that our nation would continue deathless.

Mikeitz: The Greatness Of Joseph

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

“And Joseph went out over the land of Egypt” (41:45). This was one of the greatest tests he underwent in his career. Wearing the king’s ring (41:42), clothed in royal linen with a golden chain around his neck (ibid.), riding in the second royal chariot with runners before him (41:43), having full power over the land (41:44), having an Egyptian name and an Egyptian wife the daughter of a priest, he had every reason to disown his family which had so wronged him, and he could have without any effort become a full Egyptian in heart and soul.

Hashem here is planning a twofold achievement: Joseph was made the all-powerful ruler over Egypt for the benefit of the future nation of Israel that would develop under his exceptional guidance, and therefore Hashem granted Joseph very great authority. But parallel to this purpose was another very important purpose: to develop the greatness of Joseph himself.

Great individuals are also extremely important to Hashem, just as are multitudes of righteous people. Therefore Joseph was tested by opportunities to become arrogant; but he became even more perfect than ever, because he continued to fear Hashem always and to bear humility in his heart. Additional tests of perfection were afforded to him by means of his great power, because he utilized his authority to deal kindly with the people of the land, and all that he did was for justice and mercy to all men.

Elsewhere in the Chumash we also find examples of the principle that the lives of individual righteous men are especially important in the eyes of Hashem; and in order to produce such individuals and to encourage them, Hashem takes extraordinary action similar to that which is done for an entire nation or for all nations.

“And he said, G-d should favor you, my son” (43:29). Why should a blessing be said in the presence of the recipient? Would the blessing not be just as effective if it were said when he was not present? It seems the blessing is more sincere when said without the knowledge of the recipient. Yet we see that Yitzchak blessed his sons to their face (27:27, 27:39), Jacob blessed Menasheh and Efraim to their face (“Take them to me and I shall bless them” – 48:9), and he blessed his sons in their presence (“Gather together…” – 49:1-2).

One purpose of the face-to-face blessing is to encourage the recipient with the love of the one bestowing the blessing and with the knowledge that he was blessed by him. Another purpose is that the personal encounter enhances the love of the bestower for the recipient; and a more heartfelt blessing results, which G-d hears more readily. Further: “He who bestows a gift to someone should let him know – [Shabbos 10b] – to cause him to love the giver” (Rashi, ibid.). By hearing the blessing personally, the recipient comes to love the bestower.

And Yehudah said: what shall we say, and what shall we justify ourselves; G-d has found the sin of your servants (44:16).

Judah is speaking to the Master of the World with these words to Joseph. Hitherto the brothers had spoken much to themselves and to each other to justify their behavior to their younger brother. This process of self-justification had continued for 22 years, during which time the brothers had covered their original feelings and thoughts with heavy layers of sound logic and righteous motivation, so that any wrong that may have been committed should be buried too deeply for Hashem to see.

It is the nature of men to attempt to conceal their true motives from G-d: “And the man and his wife concealed themselves from before Hashem.” Now Judah is saying the Viddui confession: “G-d has found the sin” which had been so long and so deeply concealed. This means: Now G-d has caused us to find.

This was said by Judah. Judah now comes to the fore as the spokesman and the leader, as he had previously begun.

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail
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A Torah Perspective On Educating Our Children About Sexuality (Part III)

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

While it once may have been possible to shelter our children from inappropriate exposure to sexuality, today it seems to be an impossible goal. Even parents who have made every effort to appropriately safeguard their family may find themselves unhappily surprised at what their child’s friends have exposed him to. In addition, outdoor secular media such as billboards, bus ads and newspaper covers portray disturbingly graphic images that force us to confront the fact that our children are being exposed to ideas and ways of life we may consider to be harmful to their souls and their mental health.

Furthermore, as we become more and more aware of the existence of sexual predators in our midst, and the terrible damage that survivors of sexual abuse experience, it is even more important for parents to maintain an ongoing dialogue with their children about sexuality. If children do not possess clear knowledge and age-appropriate understanding of the parts of their body and how they can be used or misused, they will find it difficult to protect themselves against those who seek to abuse them. We must find a way to inoculate our children by appropriately and respectfully exposing them to Torah ideas about sexuality and modesty, so that the first images and concepts that fill their developing minds are the proper ones.

In our tradition, there is great emphasis on modesty, which can cause some parents to be reluctant about discussing sexual matters with their children. Given the times in which we live, this would seem to be misplaced modesty as the risks that come with silence are great. Our children will learn about sexuality, if not from us then it will be from less kosher sources.

When parents do discuss these matters, they may find it hard to speak about them directly and find themselves resorting to hints and allusions. Indeed, the Gemara (Pesachim 3a) observes:

“One should always be careful not to allow an unseemly utterance from his mouth, for the Torah wrote an extra eight letters in order not to say an unseemly word. As the verse states (Genesis 7:2), ‘From the pure beasts and from the beasts that are not pure.’ [That is, the Torah could have said '...and from the impure animals' instead of referring to them as 'the-animals-that-are-not-pure.']“

However, even this is not quite as it appears because there are numerous other verses where the Torah refers to the non-kosher animals directly as impure, and does not use the roundabout circuitous language of “the-animals-that-are-not-pure.” (For several examples, see Vayikra chapter 11.) The answer must be that the Torah only diverged from the direct terminology to teach us a general lesson – if all things are considered equal, one should choose refined language. Therefore, in the specifics of instruction, one should not sacrifice clarity or brevity for the sake of modesty. Thus in most verses, the Torah uses the direct phrase of “impure” (Tosafos, “Kol,” ibid: 3b.)

It’s important to note that there are differences of opinion in exactly how to apply this principle, (see commentary of the Ran, ibid.). However, it would seem that clarity about important matters such as educating our children about their responsibilities toward tznius and protecting them from sexual predators overrides the concern of improper language. Experience tells us that if children are not instructed in a clear manner about matters such as these, it leads to misunderstandings that can make them vulnerable to misinformation and exploitation.

As the Talmud tells us: “One should always instruct his student in a succinct manner.” (ibid 3b.) When discussing sexuality with our children, if we speak indirectly instead of in a straightforward manner, we risk their misunderstanding us, and picking up on a sense of unease and an unhealthy shame about an important and natural biological function. This can lead to unfortunate complications in their development, and leave young adults and newly married couples vulnerable to unnecessary anxiety and shame.

(To be continued)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/a-torah-perspective-on-educating-our-children-about-sexuality-part-iii/2009/09/09/

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